The Wairau Bar
It all began here. Around 1350 AD, it is said, the first canoes rode the crashing waves of the Wairau Bar in to the Wairau river mouth.
People set foot in Aotearoa-New Zealand, perhaps for the very first time.
The Wairau Bar is New Zealand’s earliest known settlement. It’s a long gravel bank formed where the Wairau River meets the sea. Back when it was occupied, the site was probably an island, ideally located to source plentiful kaimoana (seafood) and birdlife from the lagoon. The Wairau river also gave access inland.
It seems that the Wairau Bar was probably a permanent settlement. Archaeologists first excavated the site in the mid-20th century, digging up many graves, including detailed adzes and personal ornaments. The bones and possessions were only repatriated to their rightful resting place in recent years, thanks to a team of archaeologists from the University of Otago and representatives of the Rangitane iwi.
Unique flora and fauna
The Wairau area is very important for having a large number of locally endemic lizards, invertebrates and plants, found nowhere else in the world. Vegetation here ranges from forest (mostly in the north) to grasslands in drier areas, and wetlands with flax swamp and coastal salt marsh.
Lay of the land
At te Pā, there’s a sense that the whole valley leads to us — carved over many millennia by the Wairau river. Our land is like an oasis, fed by refreshing artesian waters. A special spot, in its own right, as part of the region — and linked into the history and hearts of the people who live here.